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West Nile case identified in Potter County

COVID-19 isn’t the only public health concern in Pennsylvania.

The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the state’s first probable case of West Nile Virus of the year.

The infected person is a resident of Potter County. Samples will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for confirmation.

According to CDC, “West Nile virus (WNV) is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. It is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito.”

“Cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV in people. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not feel sick. About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About 1 out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.”

Although there isn’t a vaccine, there are simple steps people can take to minimize their chance of exposure.

“The best way to protect yourself from getting bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes is to wear insect repellent containing DEET during the April to October mosquito season, especially during dusk and dawn when many mosquitoes are actively feeding,” DEP Regional Community Relations Coordinator Tom Decker said. “It is also important to reduce the amount of standing water around your home. Cleaning the gutters on your house, emptying any outside containers, turning over any plastic pools and wheelbarrows when they’re not being used and using landscaping to get rid of standing water that collects around your property are all ways to decrease the number of mosquitoes with West Nile virus.”

“While we encourage Pennsylvanians to enjoy the outdoors, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also want them to take proper precautions from mosquitoes while outside,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “With the first human case of West Nile Virus detected, we want people to protect themselves.”

“The first human positive case of the year should be a reminder to all Pennsylvanians to use a personal insect repellent or stay indoors during dawn and dusk to help prevent exposure to the mosquitoes that can carry West Nile Virus,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “DEP monitors mosquito populations across Pennsylvania for the presence of disease.”

“To help detect, track and control the virus, the Pennsylvania departments of Health, Environmental Protection (DEP) and Agriculture developed a comprehensive surveillance program,” Decker said. “Pennsylvania’s plan uses the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and focuses on education, habitat reduction, surveillance, and control.”

“DEP coordinates the Commonwealth’s mosquito control program with representatives from 38 counties at the highest risk of mosquito-borne disease to develop a comprehensive mosquito surveillance and control network,” he said. “The foundation of this collaborative effort is based on integrated pest management principles. Since the virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, early detection and control are key. The program is a gold member of EPA’s pesticide environmental stewardship program. The Department of Environmental Protection, with the support of the legislature, provides funding to this network of counties to protect against disease and alleviate public nuisances.”

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